Where you live, work, learn and play can affect your breast health

The places where you live, work, learn and play can affect your breast health

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. Conditions in the environments in which people live, work, learn, play and worship, also called social determinants of health (SDoH), influence breast health and medical outcomes.

In the United States, 1 in 10 people live in poverty, which means they have less access to healthy food, health care, housing, education and safe living conditions.

Financial stability

  • What is that?
    • Job opportunity with stable income
  • How does financial stability affect breast cancer?
    • Lower socioeconomic status reduces access to medical services and comprehensive breast cancer treatments. Less access to medical care and treatment leads to an increased risk of aggressive premenopausal breast cancers, as well as late stage diagnoses and lower survival rates.


  • What is that?
    • Access to pre-school education, higher education and vocational training
  • How does education affect breast cancer?
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that lower educational attainment is associated with lower indices of breast cancer screenings. Lower exam rates cause worse results. Breast cancer screenings and early detection increase breast cancer survival rates.

The neighborhood and the physical environment

  • What is that?
    • The natural and built environment of a community, including, but not limited to, water and air quality, housing characteristics, transportation and physical activity opportunities, and walkable streets
  • How does the lack of safe and convenient places to exercise affect breast cancer?
    • When it’s difficult to be physically active, people are less likely to exercise. Education show that lack of exercise increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • How does lack of transportation affect breast cancer?
    • Living in under-resourced areas and far from medical facilities makes it difficult to access medical testing and treatment. Lack of access to testing causes delayed diagnoses and lack of transportation makes it more difficult to get treatment.

access to food

woman doing the shopping

  • What is that?
    • Access to healthy foods
  • How does access to healthy food options affect breast cancer?
    • Limited access to fresh foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains makes it difficult to eat at nutritious dietwhich could reduce the risk of breast cancer.
    • Limited access to a healthy diet increases the risk of obesity, vascular disease and diabetes. These conditions are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Social and community support

  • What is that?
    • Communities and support systems without discrimination and racism
  • How does social and community support affect breast cancer?
    • Support systems such as health professionals, friends, family and others can help people diagnosed with breast cancer obtain information, as well as share experiences and advice. Studies show that support systems and caring communities improve results of breast cancer treatments, can reduce stress levels of cancer diagnoses and improve overall emotional well-being.

Medical care

woman getting a mammogram

  • What is that?
    • The availability of mammograms and other tools for the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer; similar treatments by health care providers, health insurance and access to health care.
  • How does good quality medical care affect breast cancer?
    • The quality of resources you have available can affect your prognosis. Lack of good insurance coverage or lack of a primary care doctor can prevent people from receiving treatment and diagnoses are delayed. Implicit biases on the part of healthcare professionals and lack of access to modern care and equipment can cause poor outcomes.

This resource has been prepared with support from Merck.

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